THE WITCHER (TV Series Review)
The Witcher is the 2019 Netflix adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s much-loved book series, also titled The Witcher. Ever since Netflix announced the production for this series was underway, there has been a huge buzz circulating around it, with many fantasy fans, including myself, highly anticipating the show’s release.
Upon the initial release, the show caused much controversy with there being a divide between those who loved it and those who gave up after only a few episodes. Having just finished watching the series – and absolutely loving it – I wanted to write down my own thoughts and share them, because personally I’m utterly obsessed and excited about this adaptation. Whilst I began trying to write this review spoiler free, I found it difficult to discuss all the points I wanted to make, so this review will contain spoilers.
In preparation for the show, I decided to read the book series. As I have never played the games, I knew very little about the world. I only managed to read three of the books before the show began streaming in December, but I’m glad I did as I feel it really helped to ease me into the show, which I’ll explain in more detail throughout this review.
From the outset of episode one it became apparent that the show would remain faithful to the dark and gritty tone of Sapkowski’s books, which was something I was hoping for. In the opening scene, we are presented with a grim medieval world, and we are presented with some striking visual effects. It’s clear that a lot of money has been spent on the CGI elements, but the show also felt realistic, and almost earthy. We jump straight into the action, and see our lead, Geralt, brutally slaying a Kikimore monster. My immediate reaction to this first scene was pretty much, ‘holy shit, this is going to be good.’ I had doubts about Henry Cavill playing Geralt of Rivia; I worried he was perhaps not the right age, and too clean-cut, but I was WRONG! Oh, so wrong. Henry Cavill not only looked the part, but he played it spectacularly. He really captured Geralt’s nonchalant air, and his rugged, brusque nature. He was also damn hot!
Throughout the course of the eight episodes we see many of the short stories from The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny being adapted. I wholeheartedly loved seeing these brought to life; I felt the cinematography and choreography of the fight/battle scenes were simply epic during these parts. I loved that magic featured heavily throughout, and was unapologetic about it. My particular favourite episodes were episode one, which featured Renfri, episode three with the Striga, and episode five where Geralt unleashes a Djinn and first meets Yennefer. In this particular episode, I adored the sultry chemistry between Geralt and Yennefer, which stayed true to their attraction in the books. Although I have seen some criticism for this, I also especially liked that Jaskier’s character brought a lot of comedy to this episode, and several other episodes too, which I felt was needed to cut through the darker tones; it’s something he also does in the books. I think it’s important to remember, fantasy can be fun too, it doesn’t always need to be doom and gloom!
Now, as much as I loved the show, I can see why some viewers would initially be put off, and find it confusing. Having read the first few books, I knew that different timelines were being played out almost immediately; most notably during the scenes when Ciri was fleeing Cintra. Was this a risky move by the showrunners? Evidently it was, as this was the factor which turned many viewers away. I can completely see why it would feel jarring, and without prior knowledge, I myself would have been confused too. Now I’m not going to debate whether an adaptation should stand on its own merit, or whether the source material should need to have been read first, that’s probably best left alone. However, I can see why people became frustrated, as it really wouldn’t have taken much for a date to have been displayed on screen whenever the timeline changed to help clarify things. Having said that, I would like to state that personally I loved the way the episodes all built upon each other, how they all began to slowly correlate, and in the final episode when Ciri and Geralt’s stories converge, and the battle of Sodden comes to its climax, well, it was absolutely perfect for me. I truly believe this is a show you have to stick with to fully enjoy its brilliance, and then you can rewatch it and fall in love with it even more.
The only gripe I had was that I think the series needed to be at least ten episodes rather than eight, as some scenes across the show felt rushed. Personally, I could have done without Yennefer’s backstory as I would have preferred her character to have remained enigmatic for much longer, rather than trying to invoke sympathy for her past. Instead, I would have liked more scenes of her with Geralt, and more scenes of her unleashing chaos, because if you know Yennefer from the books, you’ll know that’s what my beloved does best! Perhaps a few more scenes with Triss would have been a welcome addition too. Although I’m sure there will be room for all of that in season two!
So, to wrap up this review, I think it’s safe to say, whether you loved or hated The Witcher we can all appreciate it for being a significant stepping stone for fantasy adaptations. With plenty more on the horizon, it sure is a great time for all lovers of fantasy.
I’ll now leave you with two last lines, that I KNOW you’ll be thanking me for all day;
“Toss a coin to your Witcher,
O’ Valley of plenty!”